By Tony Attwood
Prior to yesterday’s match the Guardian newspaper kindly reminded us that new Australian referee Jarred Gillett has handed out 15 yellow cards in his three previous matches – figures that we didn’t have before. That is pretty amazing and I wondered just how far he would go in yesterday’s game.
Two against Arsenal very early on suggested he was going to go beserk, but watching Arteta (I sit almost directly opposite him in the front row of the upper tier) he looked very agitated to me with those yellows – not because he was angry with the ref (although I think most refs would have given warnings and yellows both times was excessive by the normal PGMO approach) but because he had warned the players beforehand. When it comes to cards this ref can be a maniac.
Certainly his message, as I perceived it from the opposite side of the pitch, seemed to be heeded, as it was Arsenal who calmed down, rather than the referee. Two yellow cards to Arsenal, and none to Southampton was the total in the game, as opposed to a previous average of five a game across both teams by the Australian. Quite a change. (It would be hilarious to think that someone at PGMO had told him that his rate of cards was in danger of bringing the PGMO into disrepute!)
The average cards this season in the Premier League is just under four per game, so suddenly this referee switched to a different mode from being way above average to way below. Two fast ones at the start and then nothing. Were Arsenal nasty at first, or was that the refs tactic, or indeed did he get a word in his ear from PGMO HQ? It’s all very odd and worth watching in the future in my view. Odd how he should get Arsenal for his first Premier League game though.
Anyway, we are now a top six team once again, although Tottenham are lurking just below with two games in hand since this may be temporary.
|4||West Ham United||15||8||3||4||28||19||9||27|
Although the reality is that Tottenham have two games in hand and are only one point below.
And it is interesting that while people keep commenting on our lack of goals, and of course we could do with more, we are seventh in the goalscoring league meaning our goalscoring is not far off our league position.
What’s more yesterday we played without our two top goalscorers – Aubameyang and Smith Rowe. What is curious is that the real problem is the defence – where we are tenth in the league. Above Manchester United but below the other traditional top six sides.
And I say curious because it was the defence that was rebuilt last summer after we had the third-best defence the league last season (and that is the whole of last season, not the last two thirds of last season). One can only hope that the reason for the slippage is that the defenders are still getting used to each other, as I doubt that the board would let the manager do even more defensive rebuilding after that record splurge.
One other interesting statistic to arise after yesterday’s game is that at home we are becoming impregnable. This table is home games only
|6||West Ham United||8||4||2||2||16||12||4||14|
But away we are far from that, having won two, drawn one and lost five, placing us 11th in the away league. If we are going to cling on to a top-six finish, it will be through improving the away form.
The one additional defensive player we have in waiting is William Saliba who has been getting huge plaudits with Marseille, mostly playing right-back but also as a sweeper / centre back. The notoriously inaccurate football.london might just have got it right this time in suggesting Mari might consider his options in their coy phrase and return to Flamengo in Brazil. And If Mari goes the only left footed centre half left at Arsenal would be Gabriel.
So, sixth is not a trophy nor a certainty with Tottenham lurking below with two games in hand, but we can be grateful that these are away games – and away from home they are almost as bad as we have been. If we can just sort out our away form we will be fine.
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